Google

Gmail Goes Down Briefly And Everybody Flips Out

Google services experienced a global outage for about an hour, sparking a mass Twitter panic and an embarrassing misstep from rival Yahoo!

By Matt Picht | January 24, 2014

If you're watching this, congratulations! You've survived the Great Google Outage of Jan. 24, 2014.

At about 2:15 p.m. eastern time Friday, Gmail users across the world began seeing this Temporary Error (500) error message while trying to access their email accounts. PCWorld notes the problems lasted for just over an hour. 

Google staff redirected frantic users to the companies App Status page, where it became clear Gmail wasn't the only casualty of the service disruption. Google Drive, Google Sites, Google+ Hangouts, Google Voice — they all got hit.

In a blog post, the company blamed the shutdown on "an internal system that generates configurations—essentially, information that tells other systems how to behave—encounter[ing] a software bug and generated an incorrect configuration."

And in what can only be described as a case of extremely poor timing, Google's troubleshooting team opened an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit right before the shutdown. Guess what most of the questions were about.

Google announced most of the issues had been wrapped up by 3:30, but the damage was already done. The Huffington Post's Mike Sacks reports on the catastrophic effect Google's outage had on their offices.

"People were forced — I say forced! — to walk around and have face-to-face conversations with their colleagues. I even witnessed one producer pass a handwritten note to the person next to them because they had forgotten how to verbally communicate."

And of course, there was the Twitter snark. Oh, the Twitter snark.

Vanity Fair has a convenient rundown of the archetypal jokes which flooded Twitter in the wake of Google's shutdown, ranging from first world sympathy to snide remarks about other email services to hysterical over-reactions like this very story.

And some savvy marketers tried to seize the Twitter zeitgeist with some subtle recommendations about how to spend your time away from Gmail. (Via Digiday)

Even Google's rival Yahoo! joined in the fun, posting a series of tweets reminding their followers about Gmail's woes. The tweets have since been deleted, but not before The Washington Post captured a screenshot.

Yahoo! later retracted their tweets and issued an apology to Google – which, oddly enough, ended up being more inflammatory than the original statement.

Valleywag lambasts Yahoo!'s Twitter walkback as "a lame, lifeless apology over a non-event. ... It was insincere, of course—and rightfully so, because Yahoo! did nothing wrong."

And GigaOm's Tom Krazit sums up the apology best: "Only Yahoo could come out of a Gmail outage looking worse than Google." (Via Twitter / @tomkrazit)

The good news is, Gmail outages seem to be getting shorter. A 2013 outage lasted for nearly four hours, and back in 2009 Gmail went down for a whole four days.

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